At the January Community Association Land Use Committee meeting held to discuss Fernwood NRG’s proposed new building at 1310 Gladstone Avenue (see What’s proposed at 1310 Gladstone Avenue?), one of the participants asked “What were you thinking when you bought these properties?” We did answer that question on the cover of the October 2013 edition of the Village Vibe (see More housing for Fernwood), when our Board Chair Lisa Matthaus said “These properties offer a great opportunity to create additional affordable housing and spaces for local businesses in Fernwood.” However, a few of the other questions from that meeting indicate that we need to expand our answer further.

Another of the participants at the meeting said “Your emphasis is too much on subsidized housing for families. You’re going to have a ghetto here.” Fernwood NRG currently houses 10 families (less than 40 people) in a neighbourhood of roughly 10,000 people according to the City’s own statistics. Our rents are affordable, but not subsidized. Our three-bedroom suites rent for between 55% and 70% of the current market rent for comparable units in Fernwood. The market rent is over $1550 per month for a three-bedroom unit, and there are less than 50 three-bedroom rental units in total in Fernwood according to the Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation. As a result, many families in Fernwood are living in very difficult and overcrowded circumstances. As a charitable organization serving Fernwood, Fernwood NRG has taken modest steps to alleviate the need for more affordable housing, and we see this project as an opportunity to do a little bit more.

In 2005, Fernwood NRG purchased the derelict Cornerstone building and invested to create four commercial spaces and four units of affordable family housing. As well, many others made significant investments in the core of the neighbourhood. Since that time, police call-outs to Fernwood (aka “crimes”) dropped 39% between 2004 and 2009, and property values went from being below-average in the City to being on par with or even slightly above the City-wide average. These facts were documented in the December 2009 and April 2010 editions of the Village Vibe (see As well, we have seen successful new businesses gravitate to the core of the neighbourhood in the past few years, most notably Aubergine Specialty Foods, but also the Yoga Den, Ca Va Bistro Moderne, Studio 1313, Norte Street Food, Victoria VeloTech and others. Less crime, higher property values, new businesses opening up—hardly what you’d expect to see in an incipient ghetto.

I guess we were thinking that sensitively scaled development in the core of the neighbourhood, oriented to meet the needs of the neighbourhood, would actually improve neighbourhood life. What are you thinking? As always, let us know at